Friday, June 5, 2009

Finding a System for Artwork

If you have kids, and they're as prolific as mine, you probably have artwork coming out your ears. My kids are CONSTANTLY drawing, painting, and creating things, and I struggle with what to do with all of it! I feel horribly guilty tossing everything in the recycling, especially when my daughter sees it in there and asks why I threw it out. But I know it's unrealistic to keep everything. But what DO you keep? And for how long? And where do you keep it?

What I have been doing so far is giving each kid their own little "display" area in the kitchen. Their "area" only holds about 5 pieces of artwork, so if they want something else displayed, they have to choose which piece they want to take down in order to put the new one up. This seems to satisfy their need to keep their artwork visible for awhile.

However, I would still like a more long-term storage solution for keeping a sampling of their artwork throughout the years. Whenever I'm trying to decide what to keep for my children, I try to ask myself if they will care about it when they're adults. The last thing I want to do is burden them with a whole bunch of "stuff" from their past that they then have to sort through and deal with. As you know, I am trying to create a life of simplicity for our family, which means less physical "stuff", and less material burdens. I don't want my children to grow up with an attachment to objects, and be overwhelmed with "stuff". So after giving all of this some thought, I think that one piece of artwork per year would be a good number to hold onto, and would give them a representation of how they progressed through the years. So how does that translate to reality? To the day-to-day output of crafting?

I think it's important for the kids to be involved in the process, so that they can learn to prioritize what is important and meaningful to them. We are already doing this with letting them choose which pieces they want to display, which also means choosing which pieces to remove from the wall. This begins the process, because it means they are only choosing the most special drawings to display (not random scribbling on paper), because they know they have to remove a piece in order to display a new one. I thought I would then give each child their own box (or folder, or basket or something - any thoughts??). As their special pieces get removed from the wall, they will get placed in the box. I will let them collect there throughout the month. At the end of each month, they will choose ONE piece out of the box that is the most meaningful to them. This will get placed in another box. The rest will get recycled. The process will repeat every month for a year. Then at the end of the year, they should have 12 pieces (one from each month) in their second box. I will let them choose ONE piece from THIS box to put in their scrapbook. (If it's large or 3-dimensional, I will simply take a picture of it to include in their scrapbook).

I think it's really important to involve them in the process, so they don't just see it as mommy throwing out their artwork, which I know crushes their little spirits. By empowering them to make those choices themselves, I think is a good lesson in prioritizing what things we should keep, and what things we can let go of.

Do you have a system for this kind of thing? I'd love to hear about it! How is it working for you?


  1. I think you have a pretty good solution! I struggle with what artwork to keep too, and it's extra hard sometimes because I am an art teacher! But I pretty much do what you do, display the work for awhile and only keep a few really important ones, which my son sometimes chooses and sometimes I might want to keep one he wasn't that interested in.

    One thing you could also do is take a digital picture of the work or scan it and save it to a CD. That's one way you can "keep" everything. I know someone who did this and then made an iMovie of it that was really nice. It takes a little time (more than I have!) but I thought it was a nice idea!

  2. Like Christine said, you can save everything digitally. I've seen online companies that will make books from the pictures of artwork as well. I am still keeping everything, including school work from my 3 little ones. I need help to change. I often think we'll never look at it again...certainly not all of it. Uggh!

  3. hmm. well for starters we have twine hung across one wall with those black clip things on it. any art we're fond of goes up there. i don't throw anything out unless it's gotten trampled, torn, etc. Some of it goes in boxes and every so often we'll sort thru it and keep the pieces more meaningful to us. i agree, it's very important to include the kids. there was some really memorable pieces i created as a kid that were thrown out. but i don't think we could go through it monthly - maybe yearly though. something may not mean much to you right away but with art it's meaning could surface later. perhaps it was created in collaboration with a friend who moves away or it's a drawing of a family member who passes on.

    one really awesome solution i've found is digital photography! we haven't done this with everything but taking pictures of stuff we want to remember but don't necessarily want to keep is a great way to hold onto them. Take the art outside in natural light and fill the frame with the artwork so no distracting background shows. then you can save tons for them to look thru whenever they want. also in several years, you can create photo collages of their progressing skill throughout the years - things you might not remember otherwise. as long as the photo isn't too big it shouldn't take up too much space.

    there is also a thing online called artsonia that allows you to upload their artwork (photos of, I mean) to share with others and it allows them to order prints of it for the wall or a shirt or mug or something. Zeb's grandparents surprised him with one of his inkblot pieces on their wall!

    good luck!!


  4. I found some interesting solutions at The Green Parent that I thought I'd share as well.

    I think my favourite ideas they have are the ornaments, coasters, greeting cards for family & friends, mouse pad & the making a book!

    Here is the link below: